Archive | September 2015

Cookie – Cutter Christianity

cookie-cutter

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2

They come in all shapes and sizes.  They may be funny or serious. They celebrate special occasions and special feelings. They are done with creativity and intricate detail.  They are awesome works of art…the cookies made by my daughter-in-law.

Cookies cutters are essential to her craft and provide the basic foundation for making multiple cookies of the same exact design.

While producing multiple cookies of the same exact design may be desirable when baking cookies, God never intended for all Christians to be the same…God doesn’t make cookie – cutter Christians!

 If God had wanted us to all look and act alike, he would have given us a set of hard and fast rules. We’d have a dress code and be programmed like robots to look and talk like we all came from the same mold.  How boring and dull that would be…and how ineffective.

There are a lot of competing voices telling us what the “Christian woman” should be or look like.  Words like “graceful” and “modest” and “prim” and “proper” seem to make up most of those definitions…but sometimes those words don’t fit us.  Sometimes we prefer sweatpants to skinny jeans.  Sometimes we are the guitar player and not the choir girl.  Sometimes we are the woman without a Facebook or Pinterest account.

And all that is OK because the reality is, God uses all kinds of women for His purpose  – Mary the teenager who was supposed to marry a carpenter, Rahab the prostitute who sheltered the spies, and a Jewish girl named Esther who saved her people.

God has gifted each of us differently and we are to use our gifts to glorify God and serve others.

Aren’t you glad that God loves variety?

Our God is a hands-on God…very individual oriented.  Before we were even born, He fashioned us. (Psalm 139:13-16) He gave us strengths and weaknesses, dreams and desires and skills that would ensure our ability to accomplish and achieve our unique purpose.  He invested time and effort and took special care to blend our physical, emotional and spiritual selves so that we are one of a kind.  We are a work of art that is not replicated…His work of art.

Because we are God’s unique creations He needs us to tell our stories – stories that can’t be explained apart from God’s grace…stories that someone else who is struggling as we have needs to hear.

Our role as a Christian woman is not supposed to look like the one of the woman next to us. We may feel that we are not smart enough, faithful enough or virtuous enough to tell our stories, but God has and will continue to use women who are imperfect…that means you and me.

The world will not be changed because we have perfect hair or the most fashionable clothes.  It will be changed as people see the reality of the gospel lived out in our lives.

It’s OK not to fit the cookie – cutter mold.  It’s OK not to be graceful or poised.  It’s OK to be scared.  It is OK to be the woman God created you to be.  It’s OK to be you.

Truth to Claim:  Each of us is a work of art created by God for a unique purpose.

Application:  Be prepared and willing to share your story of God’s grace when an opportunity presents itself.

Solo Deo Gloria

 

 

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The Paralysis of Analysis

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;i_love_to_analyze_greeting_card-p137232466835130366b2wgi_400

in all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will direct your paths.” 

Proverbs 3:5-6

The moment had come.  The dreaded diagnosis was in.  I was suffering from…the paralysis of analysis.  It sounded serious, but what on earth was it? Research revealed that it is the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision is never made or an action is never taken.

 I had been approached about leading a particular ministry in my church. It was something that I was capable of doing but I couldn’t move past the question, “Is this God’s will for me?”  I had been there before, as if God’s will is some sort of vague, hazy thing – a vapor that can’t be grasped.  The paralysis of analysis sets in and I research endlessly wanting to know God’s will but wondering if I can really, actually find it. The result is precious time squandered, a missed opportunity and a loss of peace of mind.

I find myself wishing that somehow I were one of the “chosen”.   You know, the ones who always seem to know God’s will in life.  They get a vision, a word of wisdom, an open door, an invoice – something seemingly magical that lets them know God’s will for their life.  The reality is, we are all “chosen”.  Some are just more spiritually mature in understanding what it means to know and do God’s will.

Over the years as I have desired to know God’s will I have come to realize three things.

  1. Satan wants us to be confused and directionless. (John 8:44) When those things characterize our walk with God we become ineffective in living out His plan for our lives.
  2. God has a preordained plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11), has given us specific steps for accomplishing that plan and wants to see our lives matter.
  3. Before God will reveal His will to us, we must be committed to doing whatever it is that He desires for us to do. (Matthew 16:24) Why would God show us His plan if He knows we are not likely to follow that plan?

So, how do we know God’s will?

  • First, we must have a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 2:3-4) Cultivating that relationship means spending time in His Word, taking time for prayer, and taking advantage of opportunities to be involved in church and small groups.
  • Secondly, we must ask the question, “Are we giving God the highest priority in our lives? (Matthew 6:33) God cares about what is going on in our hearts. Any time we make a decision we have an opportunity to choose who we will worship – God or ourselves?  God desires to be the highest priority in every area of our lives.
  • Third, God’s will is revealed through His Word. (Psalm 119:105) Ninety-eight percent of what God wants us to do in life is spelled out in His Word. It may be stated explicitly as God’s will (1 Thessalonians 5:18), in the form of an instruction or command (Exodus 20:3) or inferred from a scripture passage (remembering that context always rules).  It is the fuzzy stuff in the middle – who shall I marry, which job should I accept, where should I live – that often paralyzes us into inactivity or indecisiveness.
  • Fourth, God leads us through the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:13a) Are we listening or do we let the noise of our lives crowd out those promptings.
  • Fifth, we should ask God for Wisdom. (James 1:5) It is available to all who ask for it in faith. The question is “Do we ask?”  It may require fervent, focused prayer and perhaps even fasting – or, do we think we’ve got this one on our own?
  • Sixth, God often leads through the counsel of wise, qualified, trustworthy people. (Proverbs 15:22) Charles Swindoll describes these counselors as individuals who are usually older and not your family or friends.  They are individuals who want only what God wants for you and have nothing to gain or lose. They will stay objective, listen carefully, and answer only after thinking and praying about it.
  • Seventh, God may lead through opportunities and circumstances. Open doors and opportunities are not just “lucky” occurrences. (Philippians 1:6) The events that God allows in our lives are all a part of His plan for our success.  None of it happens by chance.  So, we have a choice – we can live our lives as the world lives or we can embrace our lives right now as God’s will.
  • Finally, peace comes when we are pleasing God with our lives in the choices that we make. (Colossians 3:15) This peace comes in spite of obstacles, or the odds of success and regardless of the risk or danger.  It is almost as if God is saying, “I’m in this decision…press on…trust Me through it.”

Knowing God’s will is sometimes difficult because it requires patience.  We want to know it all at once, but that is not usually how He works.

Doing God’s will demands a decision.  We can’t get stuck in the paralysis of analysis.  Our decision requires faith and action.  We cannot see the outcome, so we have to trust Him in faith and step out…doing the last thing He called us to do until He reveals the next thing He wants us to do and remembering that all He calls us to do is for His glory and our good.

Truth to Claim: God wants to reveal His will to us.

Application: While seeking God’s will do the last thing He called you to do until He reveals the next step He wants you to take.

Solo Deo Gloria